The River and the Tree

Paul’s call for us to treat everyone as a new creation in Christ means that we will need to strive for unity while embracing diversity. N. T. Wright provides a helpful illustration about how the church can accomplish this. He writes, “The river and the tree appear to be opposites. The river begins, quite literally, all over the place. A tiny spring way up in the hills; a distant lake, itself fed by streams; a melting glacier—all of them and a thousand more contribute to the babble and rush of water, the smooth flow here and the swirling rapids there. Gradually other streams, other whole rivers, make their contribution. Out of many there emerges the one. … The tree begins with a single seed. An acorn or its equivalent falls into the earth: tiny, vulnerable, alone. It germinates and puts out roots down into the dark earth. Simultaneously it sends up a shoot into the light and air. The roots quickly diverge and probe all over the place looking for nourishment and water. The shoot becomes a trunk, again a single upright stalk, but this, too, quickly diverges. An oak or a cedar will spread far and wide in all directions. Even the tall narrow poplar is far more than just a single trunk. The river flows from many into one; the tree grows from one into many. We need both images if we are to understand the church” (N. T. Wright, Simply Christian [New York: Harper Collins, 2006], 199).